SV650 takes to the track
With high hopes of a morning of high-speed fun, Tony and the budget Suzuki head off to Silverstone
SUZUKI SV650 £5595 FUEL 13.8 litres @ 55.5mpg = 169 miles WEIGHT 197kg SEAT 785mm POWER 75bhp TORQUE 47ftlb
Ihad an image in my mind of what the SV650 would be like on track before I even set out for Silverstone on a damp Thursday morning. That image had me tucking elbows, knees and lid behind any shelter I could find as the SV and I battled our way down the GP circuit’s straights. It also had me diving deftly back under everyone into the turns as the SV sliced through the corners like a just-unwrapped scalpel.
Despite plenty of people telling me the 75bhp middleweight would be a hopeless tool around the wideopen spaces of Silverstone, I was convinced it would be an unlikely track hero. But sadly they were right, and I was wrong.
The lack of straight-line speed wasn’t too big an issue as I’d been expecting that, and the intermediate group of our day – Suzuki’s All-star trackday – was relatively quiet so the number of bikes whizzing past was quite low. The issue came with the corners, where the SV’S fantasy superiority crumbled.
A combination of rusty rider who’s not been on a track for 18 months and is too heavy for the SV’S lowbudget suspension meant cornering remained a careful affair even once the clouds drifted away to reveal track-drying sunshine.
Forks that dive like an Olympic gold medal winner and a shock that squats and rebounds as if it’s been entered into a weightlifting competition made it difficult to feel whether the bike was coming or going.
I wasn’t surprised when the bloke on the Kawasaki ZZR1400 slid past on the start-finish straight, but thought I’d soon be back on his tail as we negotiated the series of turns that lead to the Hangar Straight. Instead, after briefly closing up on the brakes through Copse, the well-ridden ZZR pulled a gap that was even bigger by the time we hit the end of the straight.
By the end of the session ZZR man was just about in sight.
Plenty of people had earlier pointed out the SV’S skyscraper-length footpeg hero blobs, saying I’d better remove them for fear of smearing them all over Silverstone’s surface. In the first dry session they didn’t even skim the tarmac once.
The Continental Sport attack 3 tyres, which now have around 3000 miles behind them, felt warm and gave me the confidence to get the throttle open once a corner was dispatched, but the SV lacked the poise to take me through those turns.
So far I’ve tried to avoid referring to the SV as ‘the little Suzuki’ as it seems a patronising phrase that should be reserved for 125s and, at a stretch, 300s. The 650 is a grown-up’s bike that has given me a great deal of pleasure on the road for 3500 miles. But when it comes to track riding, the SV feels little. It’s outpowered, outhandled and becomes the cheap, humble roadster I’d convinced myself it wasn’t. On the wide-open, straights of Silverstone the SV and I felt like little boys lost.
I know it can be different, as I’ve seen SV650S turn in some ridiculous performances on circuits. Now it’s down to me to get to work on the suspension, and some new brake pads probably won’t go amiss by the time I’ve introduced some damping to the front-end.
I’ve given myself two months to get this sorry state rectified without costing the earth, and to get another track appearance booked in. It might not be at Silverstone, a magnificent circuit when you have a combination of power and handling, but I’m not giving up on the SV. I’ll be back.
Whit was on hand to offer expert wisdom
That Silverstone lap record isn’t in danger of being broken any time soon